Postponed Voting Keeps The Future Of School Levies, Budgets 'Uncertain'

Cuyahoga County Issue 26 yard sign.
The Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District levy would raise more than $8 million in new revenue for the school district and add roughly $275 in property taxes per year for every $100,000 of a home’s value. [Annie Wu / ideastream]

As they work to pass out Chromebooks and free meals to students in the first days of an extended three-week spring break, local school districts that had levies on Tuesday’s Primary Day ballot are dealing with financial futures still in limbo.

Steve Thompson, superintendent of the Willoughby-Eastlake Schools, said district officials will have to wait an additional two months to find out if they have to make $5 million in cuts. That’s on top of millions in cuts made last year. With the primary election now set for June 2, the future of the softball, baseball and swim teams, and the size of the teaching staff hangs in the balance.

If we do have to go into a situation where we're moving into a reduction in force of staff as a result of a failed levy, it gives those people very little opportunity to find another position in a school district for next year,” said Thompson. “So it’s tough.”

Keeping the students healthy, fed and educated is top of mind, Thompson said, but adds that this public health crisis makes looking toward the next school year incredibly difficult.

“Everybody’s just sort of in a frozen position,” said Thompson. “Again, not the fault of the governor by any stretch. Not the fault of anyone. Just circumstances.”

The Cleveland Heights-University Heights School district is in a similar position. A school operating levy on the ballot there is meant to prevent $5 million in cuts.

The district said the lack of decision on EdChoice from the state legislature makes it “extremely difficult for our school district to budget and plan. The election delay compounds that uncertainty,” in an email to ideastream.

But in the face of the coronavirus outbreak, priorities continue to shift, including in the schools.

“Our number one priority is the safety of everyone in our community, and we support any decision that is made in the interest of safety during this unprecedented time,” the email said.

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